The stretch of 14th Street north of the Columbia Heights Metro is as close as DC proper gets to having its own “Little Mexico.” (Maybe “Mini Mexico” would be a better moniker.) A few mighty blocks are packed with great places for tacos, margaritas, and a wide range of modern and traditional specialties. Here are eight of our favorite restaurants and bars in the neighborhood:
3917 14th St., NW
Ant tacos, anyone? This elevated new spot gets its name from the Mexican delicacy with popcorn-like crunch, which you can find wrapped up in housemade corn tortillas, atop gorditas, and even with doughnut fritters for dessert. If bugs aren’t your thing, you’ll find no shortage of other hits including some of the best tacos on the block (the al pastor version topped with slivers of pineapple are a favorite). Also don’t miss the margaritas, which come in pomegranate, hibiscus, and prickly pear flavors.
3903-3905 14th St., NW
This joyful restaurant with a bright pink facade has the best selection of vegetarian tacos around, including lesser-seen hibiscus flower and squash blossom options as well as fried avocado and huitlacoche. All the tacos (including excellent meaty ones!) are served on petite blue-corn-masa tortillas—also a welcome accompaniment to mole enchiladas, grilled meats, and more.
3714 14th St., NW
Chef Alfredo Solis worked his way up from washing dishes to owning several of DC’s top Mexican spots, along with his sister Jessica. The Mexico City natives pride themselves on their sheet-thin tortillas pressed to order from small batches of masa. The tortillas make an ideal foundation for lengua or carnitas tacos, or for stretchy strands of bubbling queso fundido. We’re also fans of the classic ceviche and shrimp cocktail—plus any drink with mezcal.
3704 14th St., NW
Seafood tops everything from guacamole to nachos at this coastal Mexican restaurant from chef Alfredo Solis, also behind the nearby Mezcalero. But the go-to here is Sinaloa-style vuelve a la vida (translation: “return to life”), a bountiful mix of crab, shrimp, octopus, lobster, and avocado in spicy citrus broth. Mexican pizzas are another intriguing surprise, especially those topped with chicken and mole poblano or with chiles rellenos.
3710 14th St., NW
Owners Dio Montero and Mirna Alvarado—who immigrated from Mexico more than two decades ago and at one point worked for José Andrés—cook for neighbors as they might for family. That means handmade corn tortillas for carnitas or octopus-stuffed tacos and homey specialties from their native Puebla, such as the popular chicken mole. It also means generous margaritas, including spicy mezcal and blood-orange varieties.
Tequila & Mezcal
3475 14th St., NW
The name says it all. The underrated cocktail menu at this agave-spirit-loving spot, from the owners of Taqueria Habanero, features some seriously stunning drinks, including a purple-tinted lavender-mezcal concoction and a spicy pineapple-hibiscus marg. It’s also a great spot for flights of tequila and mezcal ($35 to $45), served with lime and salt. Pad your stomach with tacos, queso fundido, or a brisket birria torta.
Mi Casita Bakery
3429 14th St., NW
This worn-in Mexican and Salvadoran carryout/bakery opens early with traditional breakfast plates and fresh-baked breads. Grab some tongs and fill a tray with sweet concha rolls, spongy mantecada muffins, and other carby treats. You’ll also find plenty of other staples: tortas, tamales, sopes, tostadas, no-frills streets tacos, and much more. While it’s mostly a takeout joint, there are shaded picnic tables outside and a handful of counter stools inside, where you may catch the kitchen crew singing along to the blasting Mexican tunes.
New and nearby…
3418 11th St., NW
A neon sign over the bar reads “soup of the day: tequila.” That’s your cue not to miss the cocktails, including the signature passionfruit mezcal margarita and a guava-and-mezcal mix. Prettily plated ceviches and crudos are a good way to start, particularly the tuna tiradito with orange and passionfruit, which gets its crunch from crispy chickpeas and fried tortilla chips. Larger plates explore the world of mole—try the green pistachio version with stuffed corn cakes and chicharron.